Architectural groups support proposed bill to protect London's heritage properties
Published Saturday, February 25, 2017 4:52PM EST Last Updated Saturday, February 25, 2017 4:58PM EST
The Cedars at 1266 Riverside Drive is one of ten properties deemed "on the brink" in the ACO's 2017 List of London's at-risk heritage properties. (ACO / via Facebook)
Local heritage organizations are supporting a private member’s bill aimed at preserving the country’s oldest buildings. The pledge of support comes as The London branch of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario and the Heritage London Foundation released its 2017 Top Ten ‘Buildings on the Brink’ list.
The list brings attention to the state of significant heritage properties in the area that have been vacant for some time or are considered otherwise at increased risk. All of the buildings on this year’s list are heritage-listed or designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, but the ACO says their deteriorating condition means they are not safe from the ravages of neglect, the elements, or a lack of incentive and/or enforcement tools.
2017 Top Ten ‘Buildings on the Brink’
Wright Lithographing (c1902) 424 Wellington Street
Designed by London architects Hubert Carroll McBride & Frederick W. Farncomb; home to London Life (1906-1927) and Wright Lithographing; landmark red brick building with iconic four-sided public clock mount; vacant for over 10 years.
Lilley’s Corners (1871) 609 Dundas Street & Lilley Livery Stable (c1890) 620 Marshall Street
First commercial structure erected in Old East; named for local businessman, postmaster, and London East’s first mayor Charles Lilley; "Lilley's Corner: 1867" date stone refers to when Lilley bought the land, not the date of construction; Hudson’s department store vintage neon sign.
Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Library (1940) 305 Queens Avenue
Designed by London architects Thornton McBride and L. Gordon Bridgman; one of only three Queenston limestone Art Deco buildings in London (others are Dominion Public Building and Bell Canada building); built using funds from estate of Elsie Perrin Williams who also willed her home to the city; provided community educational and cultural facilities including an auditorium, museum, art gallery, and outdoor reading garden; vacant since 2002.
London Psychiatric Hospital (1870) 850 Highbury Avenue North
Designed by London architect Thomas H. Tracy; provided care to 1700 patients by 1930s; heritage features include tree-lined avenue, Chapel of Hope (1884), Horse Stable (1894), Infirmary building (1902), and Recreation Hall (1920); vacant for many years.
London and Western Trusts (c1920) 353 Richmond Street
Home to London's first trust company established in 1896; Neo-Classical Revival facade, interior features original ornate plastered ceiling, wood panelling, and marble trim; vacant since 2003.
Fraser Hotel (c1892) 183 King Street
Built as the St. James Hotel, became the Fraser House hotel & tavern, and then ironically the Young Women’s Christian Temperance Union; Second Empire style building features distinctive two-storey bow window; vacant since 2010.
The Cedars (c1880) 1266 Riverside Drive
Served as a boating/athletic club before Herbert A. Sabine bought it in 1906; Sabine/Lamb family home until 1978; landmark Victorian home features an unusual double arcade verandah; vacant since 2013.
Granger-McMahen Block / Gardner Galleries (1908) 186 York Street
Designed by London architect William George Murray; built as dry goods wholesale warehouse; one of only two remaining glazed terracotta buildings in London (other is McCormick’s factory in Old East); interior features original office partitions; vacant since 2014
Loew's London Theatre (c1920) 194 Dundas Street
Designed by renowned American theatre and cinema architect Thomas Lamb who created over 300 theatres across North America including Toronto’s Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre (1914); Beaux-Arts building hosted vaudeville legends, concerts, and films; main theatre demolished 1990s but ornate hallway remains including terrazzo floors, gilded window mirrors, barrel-vaulted medallion ceiling, brass chandeliers, and marble baseboards.
Nan Finlayson's home (1896) 100 Stanley Street
Well-maintained Queen Anne style home with many original interior features; landscaping features award-winning native plant and butterfly garden; proposed for demolition to allow for widening of Wharncliffe Road for additional lanes of traffic.
The ACO says the city must find more creative ways of conserving and re-purposing the oldest buildings, and is urging the adoption of Private Member's Bill C-323 to protect at-risk heritage assets. The bill titled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act is currently before Parliament. The second reading happened on February 10th. Only rarely does a private member’s bill become law.
This Bill would provide a 20 per cent tax credit on eligible costs for rehabilitation work done to designated historic places. It was inspired by the 40-year-old U.S. Federal Historic Tax Credit Program.
The ACO says adopting the bill would result in the numerous jobs for skilled workers, reduce demolition waste, and provide a means to promote heritage tied into the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation.
The ACO points to some previous ‘Buildings on the Brink’ properties that have since become award-winning success stories, such as the Normal School in Wortley Village, the Capital Theatre / Bowles Lunch, the Buchan House, and the Blackfriars Estate. Others, including Alma College, Locust Mount, and Middleton House at CPRI, have been demolished or destroyed by fire.